For the third year, SUNY Cortland continues their battle against climate change by enlisting sheep as grazers for the school’s two solar arrays on campus.
SUNY Cortland currently has 2,443 panels which produce nearly 1,118 kilowatts of electricity. The sheep are able to graze the grass between the panels, even reaching areas that could prove a challenge to a traditional mower.
“The benefits are numerous,” said Mike Quinlan, owner of Ironwood Grazing Company, which provided the lowest bid to Cortland and was selected for the university’s sheep services this summer. “For the owners and managers, maintaining a solar field mechanically can be very difficult. They are difficult to mow, and you still cannot get to all of it without string trimming, both of which typically require gas-operated equipment which depreciates and needs maintenance. It also requires labor that can be better served elsewhere.”
Currently, there are six adult sheep and five lambs on the campus, with all adults being females. Rotational grazing is also done to improve soil quality, limit erosion, and encourage plant growth.
SUNY Cortland was the first SUNY campus to operate all of their facilities with 100% renewable electricity. This is done from a combination of solar power and purchasing renewable energy.